back to article T-Mobile US boss John Legere calls bulls*** on video throttling claims

T-Mobile US CEO John Legere has called BS – literally – on claims that his company's video service is throttling streaming speeds and hence quality. In a video set in what looks like his basement and sporting a pink-streaked tracksuit, Legere said in response to criticism from YouTube: "There are people out there saying we're …

  1. Charles 9 Silver badge

    When Unlimited != Unlimited

    I got in on a deal when they were offering two lines of "Unlimited" LTE (buddied up) for a decent amount of money. So far I haven't really tested the waters, though I do occasionally stream video and do some downloading.

    But what really needs to be done is for the FCC to come down on any and all "unlimited" advertising as infeasible in a world of physically-limited bandwidth, be it wired or wireless. Now, "unmetered" is a feasible target, but it must be held to that: absolutely no metering whatsoever, making this impractical for wireless.

    As for the YouTube beef, it does sound like a legitimate beef to me. After all, wasn't sweetheart deals (and the favoritism they entail) one of the reasons for the Net Neutrality push in the first place?

    1. Ian 55

      Re: When Unlimited != Unlimited

      Sadly, in the UK the Advertising Standards Authority has decided that it's ok because everyone lies about 'unlimited'.

      1. Robin

        Re: When Unlimited != Unlimited

        > Sadly, in the UK the Advertising Standards Authority has decided that it's ok because everyone lies about 'unlimited'.

        That "everyone else is doing it" excuse is so annoying. I recently raised a really minor bug* on our site to change "login" to "log in" where it's being used as a verb, but it was rejected because, to paraphrase, "everyone misuses it like that, so customers are used to it."

        * Before someone insults me, this was raised along with other more major ones during a deployment-freeze bug blitz.

        1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

          Re: When Unlimited != Unlimited

          Before someone insults me ...

          Not at all. Gets up my nose, too. Phrasal verbs need to be verb + space + preposition, not these franken-verbs. I will not "setup" your computer or tell you how to "login" (or any of numerous other abominations that "computer" folk seem to think are OK).

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: When Unlimited != Unlimited

            The reason "setup" and "login" came into vogue is because the style you cite is considered grammatically correct: dangling prepositions (proper style says prepositions MUST have an object, as in "up the creek" or "in the hole").

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This sounds a lot like Legere knows that T-Mobile is heading for a kicking, and is working on the basis that that best defence is a good (pre-emptive) offenc(iv)e in the hope that you can bully the opposition into silence. In other words standard US business practice.

  3. chivo243 Silver badge

    Roommates in college?

    Him and McAfee?

    If Youtube has raised a flag with the FCC, we better get the popcorn...

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Roommates in college?

      Buttered or plain? Salted or unsalted? I'm calling dibs on the Barca Lounger.

  4. Mage Silver badge

    Mobile is the problem

    They need to build NINE times as many masts to support the same number of people on 1080p as 480p

    HD video needs cable or fibre, or else Mobile needs to be x5 more expensive to support a higher density of basestations = smaller cells = more capacity = more speed.

    So it's about profits.

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: Mobile is the problem

      "So it's about profits."

      You don't say! Did you have to think long about that or did you read it in the article, y'know, where they said that... ;-)

    2. Code For Broke

      Re: Mobile is the problem

      @Mage: I realize there are people who read here who make a living understanding these things, so I am treading dangerously here, since I am about as far from a wireless networking guru as the come. However!

      Although the actual standards and implementations of LTE vary wildly, it is reasonable to expect ~5mpbs from service in that guise, where an appropriate signal strength is obtained. Combining this with a rough average of the encoding systems used for 1080p coming to about 5mpbs, we've got a platform to deliver 1080p to the typical LTE subscriber who is in reasonable proximity to a tower.

      So! We do not need more towers, I don't think. However, you might want to wiki "backhaul" and also look at how much litteral radio bandwidth (how many megahertz) is licensed to the various mobile providers. I think there you will see that T-Mobile somewhat has their back up against a wall.

      I believe these two issues are more present in the minds of the network engineers at T-Mobile than tower at this point in the evolution of wireless networking in the US.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not throttling

    Network bandwidth is maxed out, and the wireless link speed is severely degraded due to extreme distance to the nearest available tower, but there's no throttling. Is that what he means?

    1. DaLo

      Re: It's not throttling

      T-mobile throttle the bandwidth themselves. That is why you get buffering on the Hi Res video from YouTube when you start to play them and makes the experience a mess.

      You connect at full bandwidth to YouTube and start getting a 1080p res video for instance. T-Mobile then decides to optimise this video and it does this using YouTube's bandwidth sensing system by throttling the link down to the level which forces Youtube to downgrade your video to 480p.

      However during this process there is a time where Youtube is sending at 1080p and T-Mobile has throttled the bandwidth right down. Youtube keeps buffering as it thinks it is a blip (you started on a high bandwidth connection) and keeps trying before deciding that your pipe can't support it and so reduces the quality. It's a bad user experience.

      This happens for everyone despite Youtube not being a partner and you possibly having unmetered bandwidth if you have' binge on' turned on.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: It's not throttling

        Can this be proven? What if you tunneled your mobile connection through a VPN, for example? Now T-Mobile can't sense the YouTube connection properly.

  6. Old Handle

    Net Neutrality Aside...

    Aside from the more academic concerns about network neutrality, my big problem as a consumer (I am a T-Mobile customer, though I don't think I get that "service" with my pre-paid plan), is that they turned it on by default and failed to explain to customers exactly what it would do, especially the fact that it can apparently cause poor playback (not just lower resolution) on sites like YouTube.

  7. Edwin

    To be fair...

    Hidden among all the misdirection and fluff, it appears that they're trying to flog a low bandwidth "partner" business model for their subscribers not on high bandwidth packages.

    There's very clearly some lack of transparency about what they're doing, but it would seem that people who want full fat bandwidth can purchase that option also. Though I'm sure it costs a bit more.

    Sounds like the perfect ingredients for a good old-fashioned mud-slinging contest. A bit like American elections.

    1. Old Handle

      Re: To be fair...

      I don't think it even costs more, it just means video goes back to coming out of your monthly bandwidth allotment instead of being free. Honestly, if it weren't for the underhanded way they went about the whole thing I'd call it a pretty good deal.

  8. Mr.Bill

    tmobile customer here

    They say you can turn off "binge on" but I haven't tried. Personally, Mr legere is probably a big a*hole, but he has been shaking up things and it has seemed to be benefiting competition overall.

    I actually like the idea of limiting everyone to 480p video, I hate the idea of me or others burning through the shared bandwidth with 1080p video on a tiny smartphone. Previously I'd usually have to start a video, go into settings and change it to something lower. (this is for youtube, which currently still isn't part of binge on but they gave me unlimited data anyway, for another year at least). Its not like we are talking home broadband service here. There's probably only so many towers they can put up, mobes they can service in a given area.

    When he says "not throttling" he seems to mean in the sense of the usual throttle to 100Kb when you've used up your high speed data quota.

  9. Ian Michael Gumby

    When throttling isn't throttling...


    While I was in the UK, as a Yank, the only way I could get internet was via a hotspot. (No UK bank, no home service to my corporate apartment.) Since my apartment was close to the train station, after every major football match, the locals would come home and as they get off the train, they over loaded the local phone service. So EE throttled the service down to 2G because the number of phones in the area jumped and overwhelmed the service. (Hopefully they honored their stated plans and upgraded the service to LTE over 4G. )

    The point is that for everyone the quality of service dropped to a point where you couldn't do more than text or voice calls.

    Lets face it, you're being throttled automatically because the service couldn't keep up and dropped. Do you call this throttling as in Some Exec is looking to reduce the amount of data you can stream at any time or a system failing over to a lower grade service before crapping out?

    Yes, you're being throttled in both cases, but in the second case, its not a corporate decision, but a system survival technique. Same term, different meanings.

  10. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Same quality as the TV you threw out 10 years ago

    DVD quality isn't a benchmark to brag about. They were meant to power the final generation of analog TVs. 720x480 maximum with very low chroma bandwidth. Many discs were a blurry 640×360 to avoid anamorphic compatibility problems.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jeez dude. Get a haircut already.

  12. Jos V


    I think T-Mobile won a lawsuit over this with AIO, in favour of T-Mobile. It was decided the colour was magenta. But I don't care.

    What T-Mobile does is a mix of transcoding of video format, from older standards into newer more optimised standards, as well as link bandwidth sensing. In that way a video can be streamed using the full bandwidth available without hickups in the stream, by constantly adjusting the stream bandwidth (quality, that is). Advertising you have LTE at 40Mbps, doesn't mean you actually will have that bandwidth available to you, so the quality goes down to make it fit into what you have.

    If you are downloading something in the background, as well as streaming a video, one of the two will be squeezed to fit the total bandwidth as well.

    Is that a good thing? Well, if you want the video in full HD, then download it (legal or illegal) and play it from local storage.

    Throttling to me means that they squeeze the video to a set bandwidth, lower than the available bandwidth you have at that time. That's something easy to test for though, and any claim of them doing just that would need proof.

    I'm not a T-Mobile defender, employee, stockholder, or in any way associated with them, but is there any actual proof of throttling?

    1. DaLo

      Re: Pink?

      That is exactly what they do, see my post above.

      "You connect at full bandwidth to YouTube and start getting a 1080p res video for instance. T-Mobile then decides to optimise this video and it does this using YouTube's bandwidth sensing system by throttling the link down to the level which forces Youtube to downgrade your video to 480p."

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Pink?

        So what happens when you tunnel into YouTube through a VPN? Now T-Mobile only sees scrambled data. How will they know what you're doing?

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